2nd Annual Nursing Networking Night: From Graduation to Occupation

On Monday. February 22, 2016 – 6pm – 9pm – I had the opportunity to attend the second annual Nursing Network Night at Ryerson University – “From Graduation to Occupation”, hosted by the Nursing Course Union and Canadian Nursing Students Association (NCU-CNSA). This event began last year as a way to engage nursing students at Ryerson to be more involved, engaged, and take initiative in their career and professional development. It turned out to be highly successful in 2015 and garnered a lot of positive feedback from attendees. So this year, they announced their second event in order to continue encouraging nursing students at Ryerson to facilitate a smooth transition from graduation to occupation.

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The evening began with a few words of welcome from representatives from both NCU and CNSA. Then we jumped straight into a few words from a representative at Ryerson’s Career Centre, who shed some light on the basics of Networking. She was able to teach us the ins and outs of the process of networking – the do’s and don’ts, and the how to’s. She was also there to advocate and speak for the resource available on campus that is Ryerson’s Career Centre. The Career Centre is a highly valuable resource for Ryerson Students when in the pursuit if a job or to help facilitate an easier transition post-graduation to work and career life. They help students with things like making the ideal cover letter and resume, building your LinkedIn profile, interview tips and practice, etc. If you’re ever in need for great ways to build and improve your professional self, you can find Ryerson’s Career Centre at POD60 (located just below The Hub).

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After the presentation from Ryerson’s Career Centre, a couple of speakers who were Ryerson Nursing Alumni, spoke about their own personal stories and their journeys. They shed some light and inspiration as they talked about the different ways in which they were able to reach their goals of becoming an registered nurse (RN). This portion of the evening was especially helpful for the nursing student attendees as we were able to truly relate to these alumni, knowing that not too long ago, they, too, were in the same situation that we currently are in. Their stories of their journeys were captivating, motivating, and inspiring. It truly highlighted how personal the process is of becoming an RN and how nursing students can better prepare themselves for not just a job, but a long-lasting and fulfilling career.

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After the presentation from the alumni speakers, the evening moved forward to the dinner, graciously supplied by Chipotle.

After dinner was the highlight of the night: the Q&A panel. NCU-CNSA was able to get nursing managers from the major hospitals in the downtown to represent each hospital organization, and answer any questions we may have. The nursing managers and representatives came from Michael Garron Hospital (formerly known as TEGH – Toronto East General Hospital), UHN (University Health Network – comprised of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), and The Hospital for Sick Children. The line up of panellists truly excited the nursing students in the room – the majority of whom eager to work for such established and world-renowned organizations. The Q&A panel was the opportunity of the night to ask any and every question running through every nursing student’s mind.

“What is the ideal candidate for you?”

“What kinds of people do you prefer to hire – internal or external applicants?”

“What are the different kinds of interviews you conduct?”

“Do you hire applicants prior to completion of graduation and/or NCLEX examination?”

“How do you build a strong mentor relationship?”

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Needless to say, the Q&A of highly experienced registered nurses in executive positions within the most renowned hospitals in the country, did nothing short of answering each questions with clarity and efficiency. Not only did they answer questions well to the highest degree, they also offered valuable insight and advice as to how to begin your career as an RN. They were more than generous with their time and their thoughts on how to transition from a nursing student, graduate nursing student, to RN. The panellists were gracious and true role models for each nursing student attendee in the room.

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The night was a great success, as anticipated! Everything went smoothly, all in attendance enjoyed themselves, and nursing students were able to connect with their peers and their prospective employers. We learned how to market ourselves in the health care industry, how to appeal to employers and organizations, and how to prepare ourselves for the near future.

Problems with the CESAR Health and Dental Plan

A poster on a pillar asks students to vote yes for a part time students dental plan, health plan and opt-out optionAt the outset, it looks great. Health and dental coverage for part-time students. I remember it being discussed, reading reams of emails about the policy and voting for it. However, there are some serious problems with the opt-out policy.

In order to opt-out of the health and dental plan part-time students must prove that they have alternative plans. However, most part-time students are in contract or part time work, therefore not eligible for benefits from their workplaces. This is even true of Ryerson student employees. In fact, a search of the Government of Canada’s website, reveals that more women than men work in part-time positions, regardless of educational achievement.

I am sure that the health and dental plan works for some students, however, female part-time students might be surprised to learn that oral forms of birth control are not covered. A quick google search shows that, “in 2013-14, 54 percent of undergraduate students were female and 46 percent were male. The gender breakdown of students varies significantly by program area”. In many programs within the Faculty of Community Services there are large numbers of female students. I am a female student in the School of Disability Studies which is almost entirely comprised of other female students and is a part time program. Many of these female students work in gendered employment, like health care services, meaning that they are even more likely to be in part-time employment situations. Let’s not forget that women earn less then men in Canada.

Now, I understand that many part-time students probably don’t want to pay higher fees for their health and dental plan. I understand this. I don’t want to either, however, I would rather pay more if it meant the plan actually met my needs. Full time students pay more for their plan, in which oral forms of birth control are covered. My suggestion is this, either let me opt-out without an alternative plan or let me opt-up. By forcing me to purchase a health plan which doesn’t cover my needs (or the needs of many other female students) you are forcing me to pay double. I pay for the plan, and then for my prescriptions. If I was a full time student or a male part-time student this wouldn’t be an issue. Or if I had a non-contract position which allowed me benefits then this wouldn’t be an issue.

The health and dental plan for part-time students is a great idea in theory, in practice it discriminates against female students.

RE: Drop out of university and tune into yourselves

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There was recently an article in the Globe and Mail called “Drop out of university and tune in to yourselves”.  It was written by a current university student who left post-secondary education 10 years ago- and feels it’s the best choice they’ve ever made.  The article describes the experience of dropping out of school after realizing they didn’t take university seriously, didn’t know what they wanted to do with their life and realized they were wasting time and money.  After returning to school, the author of the article has had a much more positive experience with post-secondary education.  The take away message from the article is for students who sit on Facebook, play video games and talk during their classes and generally don’t seem to care, to “drop in” to who they are and return when they are ready and will care (see full article below).

I agree with a lot what was written in the article but before you all run to the Registrar’s Office with your letters saying you won’t be returning there is one more option you may want to explore.

“Dropping in” for me didn’t involve taking time off from school and discovering who I am and what I want.  I’m in my second year of Social Work; I love my classes, I’m genuinely interested in what I’m learning and I can’t wait to start my Field Placement next year.  “Dropping in” for me was being in school.  A large part of the reason I was able to “drop in” while in university was because of my program choice.  I’m one of the lucky ones who enjoy their program.  While I am the typical university student in that I’m usually tired, have a ton of papers and readings and I’m trying to balance a social life I’ve enjoyed being in the program.

This message isn’t just for those who don’t pay attention in lecture.  Before you decide that you’re not ready for university and maybe you’ll come back when you are, take a look at if you’re in the right program.  Maybe “dropping in” for you is choosing the right program for yourself that compliments your interests.

I have met so many students who seem unhappy in the program they are in.  They may not admit or notice they are unhappy.  They may put it down to this is what university is.  You want to choose a program that you’ll actually enjoy.  This does not mean the one you will make the most money in.  I can’t count how many times someone has told me social workers don’t make very much.  Find your passion in a program.  This does not mean the one your parents picked for you, the one that leads to a large salary or the general degree one takes because society tells you that you’re supposed to be in school.

If you’re not ready for university and need to drop out, do what you have to do.  It’s a waste of time and money if you don’t care about your schooling and what you’re learning.  Come back when you’re ready.  I say this for your own good and for the good of those around you who are sick of you being a distraction during lecture.  I encourage the idea of “dropping in” but maybe you’re like me and “dropping in” is being in school.  Before you “drop in” and drop out, consider your program choice and if it’s what you’re passionate about.

Article:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/drop-out-of-university-and-tune-in-to-yourselves/article17378934/

Image:
http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/slacking-off-is-slacking-off-20100816-126qx.html

Respect! : From a mature student to her younger classmates

When I was a little girl, I would imagine what my life would be like at 25: I’d be a veterinarian college graduate working towards my own practice and engaged to my eighth serious boyfriend, who I envisioned to be the father of my future children. I was a homeowner and a dog owner, and I was madly in love with my prosperous adult life.

However, those childhood dreams of mine never came true, as I’m a 30-year-old student with no boyfriend, dog, property or salary, and I can only imagine how disappointed my adolescent self would be looking at where I am now.

Lucky for me, my adult-self couldn’t be happier with how my life turned out. I am 30 and life couldn’t be more amazing than it is right now. Initially, 30 was a scary number. I shamefully admit that physically aging scares me – I’m petrified of wrinkles and looking old, which is horrible because I hate buying into socially constructed ideals of beauty – but the level of maturity, intelligence, and the determination that comes with aging is the bomb.

As a mature student, I have the life experience to better understand how to apply the knowledge and skills I’m learning in class to real life, and I have the determination to do well in my courses (minus biochemistry).

But being a mature student also makes me a little arrogant.

As you get older, you tend to look down on the younglings because their life experience is incomparable to yours, and the years you have on them makes you feel like a more well-rounded, worldly person. Even at 28, these feelings were amplified in the first two years of my program. Initially, I had a superiority complex against my younger classmates, but that’s recently changed: my classmates and I are entering into our fourth year, and seeing how hard they’ve worked to get to where we are now has made me respect them.

I really admire my younger peers because, at their age, I don’t think I would be half as motivated as they are, especially if my first degree was a BASc in Nutrition. Working towards this degree means balancing excelling in school, work, volunteering, and socializing. When I was 19 and completing my first degree, the only thing I cared about mastering was a keg stand (true story). If I was 10 years younger, I’m not sure I’d be able to survive my life today.

Being a mature student is amazing because it lets you re-live the best years of your life and you’re allotted another four years of freedom (9-5 kills my soul). It also makes you aware of how challenging life is in your early twenties. I can’t believe my younger classmates are putting themselves through the stress and struggles of this program, and I commend them immensely.

So to all my younger peers reading this I say, good on you, man! Respect! Because, unlike you, I don’t think I could do it again if I had to.

Five Ways to Manage Stress

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With deadlines looming, papers half written, classes to attend, friends and family to see, life can get stressful.  Here are five easy ways to manage your stress

1. Learn to say no

This sounds easier than it really is. While you may want to go out, join a club, volunteer, or take more classes, be sure that you can handle the work load. Also, don’t be worried about letting people know that you need to take a step back from a project. There is definitely a learning curve but it is essential when it comes to managing stres

2. Get some exercise

Exercise is the wonder cure all for stress. It increases the body’s production of endorphins. These are neurotransmitters which make us feel good. It also works as a form of mediation. Have you ever been swimming or working out and just zoned out? This doesn’t mean that you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a gym memberships, go for a walk, go to a community centre, do yoga in your living room. I know that if I am working on a paper or project and I am struggling the simple act of taking a walk can make all the difference.

3. Look to your diet

It seems so obvious, what you put in your body will affect how it functions. If you want to feel tired and sluggish, pump your body full of sugar and processed food. Want to feel energized eat a lots of dark leafs greens, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.  Dark leafy greens and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals which will keep your body energized. They are also full of fibre which will fill you up longer. Unlike sugary food which will boost your energy and then cause you to crash, the natural sugars in greens and fruit keep you going all day.

4.  Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!

Sleeping when you are already stressed can be hard. Turning your mind off is a skill worth learning. It helps to go to bed without technology. I know, I know you want to check Facebook on your phone before you turn off the lights. But your bedroom should be a place for sleep and it helps to remove any distractions. If you still can’t get to sleep try taking melatonin. Your body produces it naturally and production decreases as we age. It is available in tablets at any health food store. One word of warning though, it can make you feel very groggy so best not to take it if you need to get up early the next morning.

5. Meditate

If you are stressed out over something that you can change, then change it. However, I think a lot of people get stressed by things over which they have no control. As difficult as it can be, you need to learn to let it go. Try meditation. Meditation is the act of looking at your thoughts and letting them go. This is not something that you will master overnight but it is worth learning. There are free meditation classes all over the city. Once you learn the basics it is something which you can easily and cheaply do to manage your stress.

 

How my Australian exchange trip led to self-discovery

In the fall of 2011, I needed out of Toronto. I wanted to shake up my routine and get as far away from the never-ending compromise between my studies and my on-again-off-again boyfriend. When I heard the School of Nutrition offered an exchange program to Melbourne, Australia that winter, I signed up immediately and booked my ticket to temporary happiness.

Or so I thought.

I have a pretty sweet life in Toronto because of my wonderful friends and family, and I expected life in Melbourne to be just as great, only with an Australian accent. But my life there sort of sucked – actually, it sucked hard – and it was the most abrasive reality I’ve ever faced, but one I definitely needed to get to where I am today.

At the time, I was 28, which in exchange student terms is pretty old, and my peers were in their early 20s. Ninety nine percent of them had never lived away from home, which meant they had never experienced life with no supervision and unlimited access to alcohol. As for me, I had been living on my own for seven years and had zero interest in getting trashed on boxed wine every night.

These basic differences made it nearly impossible to make a connection, so I attempted to make friends elsewhere. I attended workout classes at the city gym, I was extra social at school, and I spent my weekends on day-trips facilitated by the university, all with the hopes of meeting someone – just one person – with the same mentality as me.

But it didn’t happen.

Loneliness is an interesting emotion because you can feel it just as much in solitude as when surrounded by a group of people. Although I had made friends who I saw daily, I felt just as lonely with them as I did on my own. We didn’t get each other – or at least I didn’t get them.

As the months passed, the loneliness took a toll on my spirit. I’ve always perceived myself as an outgoing person and I’ve never had trouble with meeting people who share my quirks and humour. But because this seemingly easy feat just wasn’t happening for me, I began doubting everything I knew about myself and my entire trip shifted from searching for a connection with another person to building a stronger connection with myself.

Serial globetrotters often say they know themselves well because of their time abroad. The obstacles they faced pushed them to be resourceful and challenge themselves beyond their means, and a lot of growth comes from these obstacles, regardless of whether or not they’re overcome.

For me, that obstacle was keeping it together those six months. And although there were immense times of hardship, self-pity and sadness, I never regretted it, even on the worst days. I’m a firm believer in fate and, although fate can be cruel, everything happens for a reason. If it wasn’t for my tough times down under, I would appreciate everything I’ve worked for in Toronto, I wouldn’t know myself as well as I do now, and I wouldn’t be at this point in my life where everything feels exactly as it should.

Take time this holiday season to take care of yourself

 For many of us who work in the caregiving profession finding the balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves can be tricky.  We give of ourselves at work, at home, at school and hope that there is something left for us.  Often times at the end of a long day we are too tired to consider ourselves.  This can lead to compassion fatigue.  Compassion fatigue is a physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue or exhaustion that takes over a person and causes a decline in their ability to experience joy or feel and care for others.

Many of the symptoms of compassion fatigue are the same for general stress.  The effects are cumulative and we don’t always see the negative impact until it has become serious.  Once compassion fatigue has reached a serious level one experiences burnout.  Burnout occurs when you experience emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stressed.

Here are some of the symptoms of compassion fatigue and burnout.

  • Everyday is a bad day.
  • You are always exhausted.
  • You feel like you are never appreciated.
  • You excessively blame others or yourself.
  • You isolate yourself.
  • You constantly complain.
  • You engage in compulsive behaviours like overeating or overspending.
  • You have chronic ailments, such as cold or stomach problems.

The first step in dealing with compassion fatigue is recognizing that you are suffering from it.  You may feel that you are working long hours and that is why you are always tired, or that there are issues at your workplace and that is why you are complaining, but take sometime to really consider the level of enjoyment you have in your life.  Everyone has bad days and sometimes the workplace can be difficult but it does not need to affect your mental health.

So, what can you do if you feel you are dealing with compassion fatigue?  Here are some suggestions.

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Exercise, try yoga or swimming or walking.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Write a journal
  • Take time to prepare and eat healthy meals.
  • Listen to music or read for pleasure.

If you are wondering if you are dealing with compassion fatigue here are some websites you should check out.

The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project offers self-stress tests and solutions for dealing with compassion fatigue.

http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/selftest.html

The ALS society has an article worth reading with lists solutions as well as extra reading material for dealing with the stress of caregiving.

http://www.als.ca/sites/default/files/files/Compassion%2520Fatigue.pdf

Also, find out if your workplace has an employee assistance program.  Many of these programs offering counseling services.

These self care techniques may not be enough to deal with the problem.  Sometimes dealing with burnout or compassion fatigue means leaving the workplace.  Whatever happens the most important thing is to take care of yourself.

 

Standing Out

“You’re unique – just like everyone else”


Almost all of my fellow first year nursing students that I have encountered thus far have said that they want to pursue a career in pediatrics (myself included). Sure, I expect that opinions will change over course of the next three years, but as it stands now, I foresee a high demand for the line of work that does not have the greatest supply. Since coming to university and hearing that most people have the same end goal as I do, I’ve only become more motivated to stand out from the rest in both anticipation of the real world and in hopes to prepare myself (both personally and professionally) for what I am sure that I will one day encounter as a nurse. At this point in time, I’ve really only touched the tip of the professional iceberg with some retail experience, a whole lotta babysitting and as much volunteering as I can handle. As I see it, it’s never too early to start building up your resume or branching out to make contacts in preparation for the real world, and so over the past few years I’ve been trying to do just that.

 

The other day, one of my fellow students and I were talking about what we envision for ourselves after graduation. I told her that I hoped that my volunteer experience in the health care field would help me to get to where I want to be in my career one day (if not for the experience just being listed on my resume, but for the skills that it will help me to develop) but she thought otherwise. In fact, this person told me that she purposely hasn’t spent any time volunteering or trying to get work in the nursing or health care field because she thought that the nursing degree which we will all graduate with in the end will be enough of a qualification to land a job. At first I thought she was joking, then I realized that I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, we all graduate with the exact same thing and if we’re all going to be going for any jobs at all then going above and beyond is the best (and only) way to stand out. No one’s going to hand you a job – in any field – and getting the degree is only one piece of the puzzle.

 

A nursing degree does not make a nurse, and it’s up to us to go above and beyond to foster the most personal and professional growth we can in ourselves – for any profession. I don’t see the sense in adopting the “least possible amount of work” attitude throughout university to try and scrape by and hope that a piece of paper and a few letters after your name will do the talking for you. Even if a bachelor of anything was enough to find a job in the real world, why would anyone want to limit their learning to that? I’d like to think that we’re all pursuing something that we’re passionate about but I know that’s not the case for all. I hope that this person smartens up soon enough to realize that when other people raise the bar by doing everything that they can to become the best that they can be, striving for the bare minimum just isn’t going to cut it!

The February Effect

I can’t help but notice that no one ever comes to class these days. Maybe it’s the weather… Or maybe it’s just the mentality of lazy students… Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the February effect. We’ve gotten through first semester and most of us made it out alive. Perhaps students are feeling as if they’re on top of things and that because they’ve done well thus far, there’s no need to continue coming to class. From what I can see, the February effect is both infectious and chronic.

 

I know it’s expected for class sizes to go down throughout the year, but I’m talking about the people that just stop going all together for no good reason – you know who you are! I hear those skippers say they’ll find the time to make up for the missed lectures but I know that doesn’t always go so well. If you’re not pushing yourself to rise and shine for that 8AM lecture you’re wasting precious time (and money!) and you’re missing out. I don’t like to see people disregard the value of education and I know that everyone learns differently but I just don’t see any sense in feeling as if you don’t need to go to class.

 

Some profs are sneaky enough not to post any lecture material online, except all that really leads to is people texting me (and the others who went to class) for the notes that they missed. Other profs post some stuff online, but perhaps leave blanks in the notes in hopes that we will fill in the answers when we cover the material in class. Again, this only leads to the same situation as the previous. Then there are the profs who make life easy for those who don’t bother to show up (and on me) and just post all lecture content. Even still, there’s always more to a lecture than there is in a PowerPoint or a sheet of notes. There’s no way that someone who spent 20 minutes flipping through a PowerPoint is going to get the same thing from it as someone who has had it explained to them by an expert for 3 hours. Yes, some lectures get boring but that doesn’t render them useless!

 

I get a kick out of the people who come to class, only to curl up and nap. They must think that they can applaud themselves for just coming to class – not realizing that it makes no difference where one decides to sleep. Same thing goes for those people who plug in their headphones to catch up on the latest episode of their favourite show. This isn’t even a case of mixing business (well, academics) with pleasure – the only learning going on there is plot development.

 

I suppose none of this should really matter to me, we’re grown-ups now and are responsible for our own actions. It’s not my problem if someone doesn’t mind falling behind in school. And as long as the sleeping beauties don’t snore and the movie buffs keep the volume down, I should be able to keep myself in check and that’s all that I can do.

Help! I have no idea what I’m doing!

The Fall term is almost over and people are in the crunch to finish everything that needs to be done.  So many assignments and essays and exams… it’s a wonder that anyone sleeps at all during this time.  It’s probably for the best though that I’m so busy.  If I wasn’t so busy I’d probably stop and have to think about JUST WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE!?!

I wanted to get my BA.  I know, I get that.  I graduated from college but felt there was more left to be done before I said goodbye to school.  Perfectly reasonable.  But seriously… what am I doing here?

I can tell I am not the only one thinking the same thing.  In my classes (especially Research Methods and Politics… any other 3rd year ECE students loving those two?) I see the blurry eyes of other direct entry ECE students, unfocused from lack of sleep, trying hard not to think about just what they’re doing here.  In residence I’m starting to hear the grumblings of work loads too big and bank accounts too small.  Don’t even get me started on the quality of food now that Maggies at ILC has closed…

I think it’s just those ‘near the end of the semester’ jitters.  I sure hope it is.  I just keep trying to remind myself why I’m here…

I remember my plan this past winter when I applied to Ryerson.  Everything seemed so clear!  I would graduate from Algonquin College and continue on to university, raised by the applause and support of my family and friends.  I would ascend to further levels of higher learning, and graduate from university with unparalleled levels of academic success.  My plan, in short, was simple but flawless.  Now there are all these tests and assignments getting in my way.

I will admit that academically I have been doing rather well my first year at Ryerson.  Not as well as I did when I was at college (it’s really hard to maintain an A+ average), but still well.  But the more I do assignments and the more I go to class and the more I eat cafeteria food and the more I hear a party happening in residence and the more I look out at the twinkling lights of Toronto through my window and the more I stay up very late only to wake up very early… I wonder why.  Why am I here?

Maybe it’s the insecurity of moving from college to third year of university, maybe it’s the fact that I feel older than most of those I hang around with these days, maybe it’s just the fact that the Pitman Cafeteria makes me terribly sad inside… but I find myself second guessing my choice to come here, and my ability to succeed.

I am still unsure what it is I want to do with that piece of paper.  I love the early childhood field and know that it is where I belong.  I love working in early learning programs, and I love working with school aged children.  I don’t know, however, if I want to necessarily work in a daycare for the rest of my life.  I feel the degree, rather than just my diploma will make a huge difference in opening doors.

I’m not the only one in this boat.  I know there are others out there who feel just as lost and confused as I do.  Wondering just why we give so much money to be bombarded with stress and work until, in the end, we receive a nice piece of paper and some letters after our names.  Is it going to be worth it?

Don’t even get me started on my original idea of being a classroom teacher.  Even if I still wanted to go through with that, I doubt I would find a job in Ontario any time soon!

My sincere hope is yes.  I really hope it is.  Don’t get me wrong, I really am enjoying my time here (for the most part).  I do not regret my decision to come to Ryerson to continue learning.  Like everyone else here, I made the decision to apply and went through the motions to be accepted here.  Like everyone else I picked a program I felt would advance my career options.

I am going to make it, I am going to succeed, and I am going to proudly stand up in the Spring of 2013 and receive my BA in Early Childhood, raised by the applause and support of my family and friends.  I will have ascended to unparalleled levels of academic success.  My plan, in short, is flawless.

So… it’s all worth it, right?